the course of the last holiday season, Verizon aired a series of ads
belittling AT&T's coverage and even mocking the iPhone's slogan
(changing "There's an app for that" to "There's a map
for that"). AT&T sued
the suit, and eventually settled
down after Verizon stopped airing the ads incessantly.Now
AT&T has a new target in its quest against what it feels is
disingenuous and deceptive advertising -- T-Mobile's HSPA+
publicity campaign. HSPA+ is an advanced
wireless technology designed to deliver faster download speeds over
traditional 3G. It's not quite a 4G technology -- WiMAX, UMB,
and LTE are the "true" 4G options -- but it's more advanced
than traditional 3G. It does however work on existing 3G
networks, and only requires a relatively simple firmware update to
towers, in many cases.So what's AT&T's problem?
T-Mobile, the nation's fourth largest carrier has been busy spreading
HSPA+ coverage across the Northeastern United States. Now it
claims that it is delivering "4G" speeds. Neville
Ray, senior vice president of Engineering and Operations for T-Mobile
writes in a
release, "Our competitors are asking consumers to pay more
for faster wireless service with limited coverage and very few
capable devices. In contrast, T-Mobile is already delivering 4G
speeds today to customers and we continue to make major leaps in
expanding our HSPA+ mobile broadband footprint."AT&T
believes T-Mobile's statements are misinformation intended to fool news writers
and consumers. AT&T Mobility spokesperson Seth Bloom
comments, "I think that companies need to be careful that
they're not misleading customers by labeling HSPA+ as a 4G
technology. We aren't labeling those technologies as 4G."The
wireless standard community seems to side with AT&T on this
issue. They typically refer to LTE as 4G successor to GSM (3G)
while referring to HSPA+ with stop-gap terms like 3.5G or "advanced
3G." AT&T is working on coming up with a plan to
deploy LTE, but is first focusing on beefing
up its 3G network. Once those infrastructure improvements
are complete it too will complete a quick HSPA+ update to improve the
experience while customers await true 4G.However, it won't be
calling HSPA+ “4G” -- it will be calling it HSPA+. T-Mobile's
HSPA+ service is currently available in New York City metropolitan
area, including New Jersey and Long Island, as well as Upstate New
York (Albany, Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse); Connecticut
(Hartford, New Haven, Milford and Stamford); Providence, R.I.;
Memphis, Tenn.; Las Vegas; Philadelphia and the Washington, D.C.
suburbs. It has no publicly discussed plans to deploy WiMAX or
LTE, as of yet. HSPA+ isn't just a firmware update
in some cases, though. Sometimes it requires more fiber to be
laid to the tower to support the higher transmission rates.
T-Mobile is working on this to add more HSPA+ -- a spokesperson says,
"Over the next few weeks, we'll continue to put the necessary
backhaul in place in these locations to complete the upgrade.
T-Mobile expects to have fiber backhaul in place in more than 100
metropolitan areas by the end of the year."Like true
4G which only works on a couple of handsets (like the WiMAX-ready HTC
EVO 4G on Sprint), there's a limited number of handsets that can handle HSPA+ advanced 3G. T-Mobile will release two next month -- the Android powered myTouch 3G slide and the Garminfone, but currently has no handset for sale that can handle HSPA+.
quote: "Our competitors are asking consumers to pay more for faster wireless service with limited coverage and very few capable devices. In contrast, T-Mobile is already delivering 4G speeds today to customers and we continue to make major leaps in expanding our HSPA+ mobile broadband footprint."
quote: Using the HSPA+ wireless technology standard, the T-Mobile network currently delivers theoretical peak download speeds of 21Mbps1. T-Mobile’s rapidly expanding HSPA+ mobile broadband footprint makes it easy for customers to enjoy 4G speeds2 on existing mobile broadband devices such as the T-Mobile webConnect™ Rocket™ Laptop Stick.
quote: 2 Based on 4G network speeds currently available to mobile device users in the U.S.
quote: You can play semantics all you want, but the ads are definitely designed to mislead people into believing their getting 4G phones, regardless what the fine print says.
quote: If it is nearly comparable, then T-Mobile really has nothing to worry about.
quote: I downloaded and installed the Speedtest.net application on my T-Mobile compatible Google Nexus One and the Sprint HTC EVO 4G to conduct some speed tests. I made sure I was outside in a clear area where the signal indicators on both devices showed full bars for each wireless technology. I then ran six tests (the first one for each was always low) and averaged the five tests for upload and download speeds for each device and each technology. Here are the results for you to consider:•T-Mobile 3G on Nexus One: Download 2,038 kbps and upload 390 kbps•Sprint 4G on EVO 4G: Download 2,278 kbps and upload 988 kbps•Sprint 3G on EVO 4G: Download 1,492 and upload 668 kbpsAs you can see there is very little difference between T-Mobile’s 7.2 Mbps 3G data network and the Sprint 4G WiMAX network in tests (for download speeds) and these match what I have seen previously with the Sprint Overdrive. Also, I have seen speeds exceeding 3,000 kbps (3 Mbps) on my Nokia N900 that has outstanding reception. There is a significant difference apparently (as measured by this application) in the upload speeds, which may be important to you if you plan to upload lots of video content (Qik, YouTube) or images.If there was some radical speed difference then I may have considered the EVO 4G, but I am going to stick with my T-Mobile Google Nexus One running Android 2.2 (Froyo) for now.